A man walks past an overflowing dumpster in east Jerusalem close to Herod’s Gate. (David Lee)

Stranger than Paradise

Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 23

The American film Stranger than Paradise, directed by the famous director Jim Garmusch in 1983, is a simple yet disconcerting story quietly presenting the process of human detachment from nature. The story follows Eva, a Hungarian immigrant, who seeks to leave the rural community in which she grew up and come to the land of opportunity in the United States of America. In one of the opening scenes, Eva, now in the US, sits in front of her cousin who is eating a sandwich and asks him what type of meat it has. “It’s meat, it doesn’t matter which kind… maybe beef,” the young man replies. Annoyed by her question, he continues: “This is the food we eat here in America; every plate must have a piece of meat, French fries and veggies.” He then proceeds to finish his meal and throws the plastic plate away. Although the film is almost four decades old, this scene is extremely telling of the current human predicament regarding the environment. The plastic plate and utensils are a symbol of modernity and the environmental destruction brought about by mankind through uncontrollable dumping and pollution. The lack of awareness regarding the meat one is eating represents the total disconnect between the food we consume and where it comes from. In today’s world, not a single one of us ever stops to reflect upon our food web. In the rare chance that we do think about our relationship with nature, we rarely look beyond the shelves of our local supermarket. It is easy to continue consuming without expense, wasting money and dumping garbage in unfathomable quantities, and destroying our planet. We have lost respect for animals, for the earth and the seas, and for all living things. We forgot the origin of the fruit on our table, the sun that nurtures our plants, and the hands that plant and harvest the food we eat. In following our daily rituals without questioning our habits, we are contributing to the rapid demise of our planet. We are losing accountability to ourselves and to others. We have become creatures who waste without any remorse or guilt. We have come to forget that nature is a complicated web of living and nonliving things that have been inextricably tied to each other, maintaining a delicate balance, for hundreds of thousands of years. It is time we looked beyond our plates. – Raja’a Alem
(translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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